Countering the use of ICTs for crimes
The objective transition of humankind to the virtual environment is accompanied by a breakdown of many existing stereotypes about how mechanisms of interaction function between states, society, and business. This, in turn, requires adjustment and the creation of new contours for ensuring the security of states.
At the same time, there are changes associated with the transformation of the global information order. The leading industrialized powers are trying to maintain their status as the dominant force in the information field, while slowing down the transition to a polycentric model of its management based on legally binding norms, rather than on some rules that can be changed to suit the political conjuncture.
The absence of relevant universal international legal treaties in this area has led to a huge wave of crime in the information space, with serious damage to the economic activity of states and the well-being of millions of people. According to independent international experts, the annual damage from the activities of criminals in the information space of European Union (EU) member states alone is about 5.5 trillion euros ($5.85 trillion).
Crimes using information and communication technology (ICT) have become a profitable business. There has been a tendency of incitement by some states to take illegal actions against others, and to place ready-made malware in the public domain of the internet. The prospects for the global digitalization process as a whole, and the effectiveness and dynamics of which depend on ensuring security, are in question.
It is against this background that the work of the United Nations (UN) Ad Hoc Committee for the Elaboration of a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Criminal Purposes is taking place. This negotiating mechanism was established at the initiative of Russia, with the cosponsorship of 46 and support of 87 states, by UN General Assembly resolution 74/247. It is aimed at creating the first ever universal and legally binding instrument to combat crime in the information space.
The convention to counter the use of ICTs for criminal purposes, drafted under the auspices of the UN, should give consideration to the interests of all states without exception and be based on the principles of state sovereignty protection, equality of parties, and noninterference in the internal affairs of states. It should also provide for a broad scope and criminalization. But the United States, the EU, and their allies strongly opposed the establishment of such a specialized UN body in general and the development of a convention in particular. One of their formal arguments was: “the world is not yet ready for such a convention.”
The hidden informal reason for rejecting the very idea of a UN treaty was the 2001 Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, developed at the instigation of the US, known as the Budapest Convention, whereby Washington undermines state sovereignty and controls the member states’ information space. The future universal UN treaty thus becomes a direct competitor to the Budapest Convention.
In contrast to Russia, the US advocates maximum harmonization of the UN and Budapest conventions. Thus, the US is trying to breathe life into a regional document of the Council of Europe written more than 20 years ago, which is thoroughly outdated. The rhetorical question now arises: Who controls the internet and the global information space now?
Another reason for the strong opposition to the new UN treaty is that the UN process does not fit into the US-imposed paradigm of a “rules-based order.” Equal international cooperation is not implied. The main role in the future search for ICT criminals is assigned to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is seen by the West as another alternative to the UN Convention on Countering the Use of ICTs for Criminal Purposes.
Giving the ICC’s broad powers to conduct ICT investigations, Washington plans to use it to deliver verdicts and assign responsibility. The responsibility of finding traces and providing evidence, on the other hand, will fall on American information technology giants. Bypassing the mechanisms of mutual legal cooperation between states, citizens of any state suspected of committing crimes in the information space will be “hunted.”
We can thus conclude that there is no alternative to a future comprehensive convention under the auspices of the UN. Russia, for its part, will continue to provide technical assistance to countries in need based on the principle of protecting state sovereignty, and to debunk any manifestations of neocolonial practices in the global information space. The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network
Ernest Chernukhin is deputy head of the Russian delegation to the Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of ICTs for Criminal Purposes.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of the Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 media titles in the region.